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Can I tell you about the unalloyed pleasure of working with large format cameras?

I have to admit I’m a little bit of a geek, not in a numbers-y technical way mind you.. but a giddy at the thought of putting black fabric over my head kind of a way. (I’m a bit like this with my pet processes…I was incensed to the point of wrath at the Guardian advert on telly which showed a colour photograph of Obama being dish processed under red safe lights.)

At any rate, composing a photograph with a large format camera is more like an act of diplomacy than anything else. First there are the introductions… bellows creak of out their retirement, young whippersnappery dials in their shiniest brass leap out of place before the ponderous bulk of the lense plate is put in place and have to be marshalled again to do their duty.

Once the camera is set up, comes the fiddling with large black cloths and loupes, the former seems to generate more heat than would seem feasible and the latter is invariably where you don’t want it to be (underfoot, or on the table just out of reach) which is why I have strung it on a bit of ribbon and am wearing it as an accessory.

Then there’s the fact that everything is upside down, backwards, and blurry. It’s like a test of co-ordination, nerve and sheer blind luck. That and each piece of film is just that little too expensive to be hastily shot, so there’s the fear and trembling of a slightly unjustifiable purchase to add to the excitement.

In short, it suits my rather imprecise and performance-loving nature and I’m thrilled that I’ve made myself go back to it. I also have to thank my Uncle Terry for going digital at the point where I was able and willing to do something useful with his old equipment.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your quick guide to the wonderful world of monster cameras (a little more genteel perhaps than the world of monster trucks) and keep your eyes peeled for more exciting introductions to fiddly and archaic photographic processes!

…plus in what other situation can you suddenly exclaim to yourself, ‘Of course! I’ve forgotten the Scheimpflug rule

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